Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flashbacks and resolutions

It’s the last day of the year, time to make a summary of what has passed and to make resolutions for the future.

I try to remember what the game looked like to me a year ago, but my memory is a bit hazy, and there are no achievement records or blog posts to support my memory (this blog didn’t start until February 2008).

Guildlife and raiding
The first thing that comes into my mind is my guild. The guild I belong to has always been important to me. It’s my home and my family, it’s the starting point for everything I do in the game, actually it’s such a big part of what the game is to me, that it’s one of the major reasons why I play it at all.

This year I’ve gone through quite a lot guildwise. In the beginning of the year I went through a guild split, which was pretty painful at the time and I ended up making a server transfer. After that I’ve switched guilds twice, which is a little bit too often to make me comfortable.

Fortunately enough I now feel that I’ve found my home in the guild I joined during the summer. The guild is healthy and stable and there are no dark clouds on the horizon, so hopefully you’ll find me in the same guild if The Pink Pigtail Inn is still around next New Years Eve.

The second thing that I come to think of looking back is the raiding content. One year ago I had cleared Karazhan for the first time pretty recently, if I remember it right. Netherspite was the last one to go. I remember a couple of wipe nights before we could get the beams right. How odd it feels thinking about it now – were the beams really that complicated to handle?

One year ago I had never been in a raid with more than ten people. My ambition didn’t go any further than to see Gruul at lest once, to see what 25 man raiding was like. Little did I suspect that I’d end up clearing all raiding content in TBC except for Sunwell.

Guild life and raiding. Those are the things in the game that mean most to me. Even though I often say that I’m fond of Larísa, I must admit that I don’t think much about her doing this summary. Of course she’s geared, skilled and levelled up during this year, and she’s become friendly and honoured and exalted with obscure clans of creatures all over Azeroth. But so what? Dear Larísa, I’m sorry to tell you, but in the end you’re nothing more than a vehicle, the tool I use to enjoy the game. You’re not quite as irreplaceable as I used to believe. This insight has evolved over time, as I’ve come to understand the game and my relationship to it better.

The year to come
Now over to the looking-forward-part of this post. What are my expectations for the year to come?

Well, considering how great we did towards the end of TBC I’m looking forward to some really good 25 man raiding, beginning next week. The only thing that worries me is the performance of my computer. It’s doing OK in the current 10 man raids, but the lag in Dalaran is bad, and when I joined a 25 man pug in Vault of Archavon, I found it quite hard to perform well, since my fps was too low. If this continues I don’t know what to do. Possibly I could turn in the computer once again, perhaps putting some more RAM into it. But I know my family would find it quite incomprehensible since the PC in their eyes is pretty new and top-notch. Just thinking about it gives me a pain in my stomach. Suggesting buying a new gaming PC is out of the question. Not because we can’t afford it, but because I’m the only one that wants it. This issue needs to be solved and I don’t know yet how to do it. If I’ll ever stop playing, it will probably be because of this.

So do I have any resolutions? I’ve never been much of a resolution maker for New Year, making promises to quit smoking, loosing weight or whatever. I normally keep my mouth shut when it comes to that part. But let’s give it a try, just for the fun of it.
  • In 2009 I’ll start charging strangers for portals. I have no reason whatsoever to spend my time and money on consumables to be their taxi driver all over the world.
  • I’m going to learn the Heigan dance well enough to survive it.
  • I will get my bank and bags in better order. The first step is to stop jamming it. I’ll stop keeping tons of junk there “just in case”. The starting point will be a big sellout at AH, and after that I’ll ALWAYS see to that I have at least 10 empty slots in the bank so I easily can clear my bags if I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to make decisions about what to do with items.
  • I shall prioritize my sleeping better than before. This means cutting down a bit on my nightly gaming. I’m so tired at those hours that I’m not efficient anyway. It’s ok in the weekends, but normal weekdays I’ll quit my habit of playing after midnight.
  • I will see to that I keep having fun. I’ll follow my heart rather than the crowd and make sure that the game never turns into a job instead of entertainment.

Now time has come to raise our glasses of sparkling wine and suggest a toast.

Happy New Year to all the guests of The Pink Pigtail Inn! May you live long and prosper!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tipping makes me uneasy

Probably it’s got to do with the culture I come from, but I’ve never felt comfortable when it comes to tipping, and if possible even worse about bargaining.

In my world a price tag should show the price the seller wants to sell the item for. Nothing less, nothing more. You should always feel safe with the knowledge that you have agreed upon a price which will make you both happy.

Non fixed prices come with an amount of uncertainty, which makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure I’ll be fooled in the end somehow – because of my lesser knowledge, lesser experience and a piece of bad luck. In 90 percent of the cases I’ll end up as a loser. And in the last few percent when I don’t, I don’t feel much better, even though I may look as a winner. I don’t want to take advantage of other people. I want fair deals. But it’s hard to know what’s fair when everything is flowing in an ongoing negotiation.

From Sweden to Azeroth
In Sweden we don’t tip a lot, if ever. You may do it at restaurants, you used to do it in cabs, but nowadays it’s included in the fee and not expected. That’s about it. There are few places in the world where you tip as rarely as you do here. That would be New Zeeland I guess, at least if it still is like it was when I visited it 20 years ago. I still remember the signs meeting us on the airport, telling us that tipping in this country wasn’t a custom – it may even have been forbidden. What a relief it was to read! Two months as a tourist in a non tipping country – it couldn’t really be any better!

But in most cultures in the world you tip. And you bargain, which in my eyes is even worse. (Seriously, if I can’t get clear information about the real price from the seller, I lose interest in buying anything at all. When I visited Tunisia last summer I ended up in not buying a single item in the bazaars since I couldn’t put up with the bargaining procedures).

Azeroth is not like Sweden or New Zeeland – it’s like the rest of the world. A place for tippers and bargainers. Have you ever tried to get a price from an enchanter? It’s almost impossible. You always get the vague answer: “no fee, but tip if you want to”. Further questions about what a normal tip is won’t give you any straight answers. Sigh.

Tipping a tailor
The other night I was put in one of those uncomfortable situations. I had been thinking for a while about getting a Deathchill Cloak, but the price at AH, about 1 600 gold, was a bit too much in my opinion. It turned out however that I could gather the mats for about 600 gold. This was a more reasonable price to me. Now it happened that a tailor announced in trade chat that he could craft those cloaks. I asked about the fee and he said that it was up to me to give a tip.

How do you tip such a thing? I knew that getting the pattern would take quite a lot of work – you need to be Loremaster of Northrend, so it’s not something that any tailor will get from the trainer. Considering how much money this crafter would save me, I thought I should give him a decent tip. I ended up giving him 50 gold. The next night I saw the same tailor advertising in trade channel. He didn’t only craft those cloaks for free – he even offered to PAY people to do it for them, since he wanted the skill-up. Stupid, stupid Larísa, ending up as a loser again!

Portal fees
Now in Azeroth we’re all businessmen. How do I act myself when I’m offering services to others? Well, to be honest I don’t have any experience of advertising in the trade channel and selling my stuff on the street. It wasn’t until recently that I switched into a crafting profession and I haven’t got used to the idea, even though I realize that I need to do it at some point.

Since I’m a mage it happens every now and then that I get requests to do portals though. And I must admit that it doesn’t make sense at all how I do it, considering my feelings about vague prices. I never ever ask for a fee for a portal. If I’m not already in a party or up to something I’ll make it. If they ask me about a tip I’ll reply: “Give what it’s worth to you”. How vague isn’t that? Often I end up getting 1 g. A few times I’ve got 5 g and once or twice even 10 g. But half of the portals I make end up as losses since I don’t even get a tip to cover the cost for the rune. It certainly would be better for me as well as for the customer to set a fixed price. Considering the amount of gold circulating those days, 2 g wouldn’t be unfair. (Portals for guildies, friends and party members are free, of course.)

Maybe I’ll make it into one of my new year’s resolutions: start charging strangers for portals.

The question is what I should do about the tipping? Perhaps putting a bit more of attention into Wow economy would help, making me feel more aware about the market prices, so I get a feeling about what’s reasonable and what isn’t. Because the likeliness that Azeroth will turn into Sweden is pretty small. It’s up to me to adapt.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Time for preparation

Lately I haven’t reported so much about what I’m up to in the game. So today I thought I’d make a brief report for once, just so that you know that I’m still playing and not spending all my time sitting in a corner, pondering upon different philosophical aspects of the game. I do what many other people do these days and that’s why I haven’t much to say about it.

Preparing for raids
Most of my gaming time since the expansion was launched has been about preparing. My guild is starting 25 man raiding next week, and I’ve worked hard to get a decent gear to begin with, not yet with the most exclusive enchants and gems available in the game, but at least nothing I’m ashamed of. With exception for my very much hated head and the hit rating trinket, I’m full Nothrend epic by now, which is far better than I could ever have dreamed of.

I’ve ran tons of heroics, completing all there are of them in Northrend, gathering so many badges that there’s nothing more to buy for Larísa, but hopefully there will come other things to buy later on, perhaps some gems. I’ve done a few of the heroic instance achievements as well. I’m still not as caught by the achievement bug as many of my guildies, but I like the twist they add to the instances, making them more interesting again once we’ve geared up and learned the strategies. It feels like the excitement about them will last longer thanks to it.

My current favourite instance is timer run in Stratholme. I’ve always liked instances where the script sets the pace for you, like Black Morass and Durnhold and the timer puts some extra pressure on you. I’ve managed to complete it twice, but lost the rolls for the mount, so I’ll keep doing it for a while more.

Waiting for the holiday debuff on the guild to wear off, we’ve done some 10 man Naxx. Considering how few times I’ve been there, I’ve been lucky with the drops and rolls, already wearing 4 pieces of T7. But above all I’ve got the opportunity to practice. It’s a great appetizer before the real thing starts, and I think it will help that I’ve seen and killed all of the bosses. I still haven’t survived the Hegan dance, but I won’t give up until I do!

The hated Sons
When I’m not running instances I’m grinding rep. Oh you Sons of Hodir! You call me revered… You should know what I call you! You’re not even friendly with me. I feel like a slave, polishing that stupid helm over again with some yucky slime oil. Trust me, once I’m exalted I’ll never do you a favour again. Not a single one. It’s a promise.

On the other hand I know there are some other rep grinds awaiting then. I’d really like a penguin pet. And the oracles are so sweet, they could deserve a hand from me. But with those reps there’s really no hurry.

The shoulder enchant is different, it’s necessary, according to me. I know there are others who have different opinions on this matter. I suspect that Gevlon think that I’m suffering from Raider Stupidity, gearing up a lot more than needed for the encounters we’re about to make. Waste of effort, waste of resources! And yet I keep doing it. To me going to a raid is like going to a new year’s party. Of course a pair of worn jeans will cover your body and keep you from getting wet and cold. But it won’t give you the right feeling. When I raid I want to come in the best clothes I can afford.

Yesterday I made a little step away from the narrow road, doing something just for fun and not in order to prepare for raiding: I started doing the Winter veil achievements. It just came into my head that “merrymaker” would be a perfect title for Larísa to wear. I’m a bit late in the start – the last day to do it is on January 2, and especially the task to get 50 honorable kills in disguise is quite time consuming and annoying. It remains to see if I’ll succeed.

Well, it’s not all in the title, is it? I could very well decide to become a merrymaker, even if it doesn’t show above my head.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The gift of imagination

Today a thought crossed my mind: the things I enjoy most in the real world as in Azeroth actually don’t cost anything. Or rather: they don’t wear a price tag, telling me to pay x dollars or y gold. I’m thinking about the ideas and experiences I share with other people. Actually Gevlon, of all people, commented on this the other day. He put it beautifully, when he answered a commenter the other day about why vanity mounts really is a useless way to try to stick out in the crowd:
It's the new and unique thoughts that make us unique, and not mounts.
How true isn’t this, especially in this time if the year, when the goblin people of the world tare trying to persuade us to waste a fortune on pretty pointless gifts and items of pure vanity?

A Christmas gift
The best Christmas gift I've heard about didn’t cost the giver a cent and yet it was beautiful and priceless. In his family (with grown-up kids, I guess it would be harder to make such a thing with children around), they had agreed not to exchange any Christmas gifts in a physical meaning. But that didn’t stop them from giving away presents. In stead they were all supposed to give an imagined gift of any kind and to write a rhyme about it. This guy had decided to give his daughter “1 000 pairs of shoes”. I bet she enjoyed them, especially since her father is a writer and the poem probably was witty and entertaining.

I haven’t sent or received any Christmas gifts this year in game. Last year I sent a tonk to a boy I knew on my former server (he was much into duelling, and constantly asked me to fight him, partly because he enjoyed outclassing me, partly because he had a hope that he could teach me a few things). I gave it with a promise that I’d run tonk duels with him as much as he liked, and I had bought one for myself too. The gift was very much appreciated. This year I never came up with any good idea about gifts to my friends, so I skipped it.

However, I recieved a thing a little while ago, which was as good to me as any Christmas gift. It was a link, sent to me by Zakesh, my lazy co-innkeeper, who knows pretty well what kind of game related things I love.

Events in Darrowshire
The link went to one of the most beautiful machinima videos I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a small and simple music video, made by the machinima maker Cranius. He tells the story of a few events in Darrowshire, Eastern Plaguelands in pictures, music and lyrics.

You probably can recall the quest giver, the little girl Pamela, who’s lost her doll and her family. You’re supposed to help her find it. This was one of those quests that stayed in my memory, since it wasn’t about collecting boar intestines. But yet, I never thought much about the lore content when I did it, it was just another quest to along the way, something to “get done” as soon as possible, to move on to the next one.

When I did the quest once upon a time I probably did it the normal way – I checked on Wowhead/Thottbot/Lightheaded/Questhelper to get the coordinates, killed whatever I had to and delivered the items, my mind already set on where to find the next quest objective. I never reflected about what I was doing. Not until now.

Seeing this movie I suddenly saw the story in it, thanks to the imagination and creativity of the people behind it. This little quest came alive to me and I know for sure that if I ever roll a DK, I’ll definitely savour it in a way I never did before. Pamela has touched my heart. What a gift isn’t that?

The best things Azeroth can offer us don’t cost anything, neither gold, nor dollars. Don’t forget that.

There’s nothing bad in using Auctioneer in order to get rich. But if you use your imagination every once in a while, I promise you’ll get even richer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas thoughts

This post will be published on December 24 – the day when the Christmas Celebrations reach their climax in Sweden. I know it’s pretty much an ordinary day in most countries – quite a few of you probably read this post at work. But where I live this is The Day, especially for children, opening their Christmas gifts.

It probably sounds a bit weird, but guess which tradition we have in Sweden, which is supposed to catch and symbolize the spirit of the season, the thing that no one would dream of not doing? Did I hear anyone suggesting going to church, attending a midnight mass? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

The thing that unites the Swedish nation for Christmas is watching Disney Cartoons, seeing Donald Duck and his friends wishing us a Merry Christmas. It’s tradition and it’s pretty geeky when you think about it. Every year on Christmas Eve at 3 pm, at least 75 percent of us will assemble in front of the television to watch cartoons. It will last for one hour, during which we enter a state of Christmas coma, half awake, half asleep, due to drinking too much of a spicy, sweet and hot alcoholic beverage called “glögg”, an equivalent to the more wellknown “glüwein”. When the cartoons are over it’s time to open the Christmas gifts, with or without the presence of Santa Claus. And once the kids are happily playing with their new toys, the grownups will throw themselves into a huge dinner, mostly consisting of meat in all shapes you can think of, a dinner well worthy the mightiest of the Vikings of Howling Fjord.

Since I have a family, this is what I’ll be doing too. I doubt that I’ll get the opportunity to visit Azeroth at all today. But I know some of you will, for various reasons, out of free will, or out of lack of alternatives. Maybe you haven’t got much of a family – or there are reasons why you can’t or even don’t want to spend Christmas with them.

The faces of Christmas
Christmas has so many different faces. It can represent love, friendship and sheer joy. But it can also be the opposite – expectations that are impossible to live up to, conflicts, loneliness, disappointment.

I haven’t yet been in the situation where spending Christmas in Azeroth would be an alternative, so I haven’t got any personal experience from it. From what I’ve heard I can imagine it’s very calm, but yet never totally empty. There will always be a few other people around on your server, people you can group with, chat with, people who can help you feel less lonely, if that’s what you feel in real life (and by the way you can feel really lonely even though you’re surrounded by people in real life, mental loneliness isn’t the same as physical).

To all of you who will be online – whether it’s for company or just for a little break of entertainment and relaxation, to get away from all the “musts” and “should dos” for a little while – to all of you I’d like to send my thoughts and greetings.

Society may frown upon such activities as playing an MMO at Christmas. Maybe you’ve heard claims that “gamers are losers” so many times that you’ve started to believe in them. Don’t. There’s no law that obliges you to do certain things at Christmas; it isn’t forbidden to enjoy Icecrown more than one hour of Donald Duck, no matter what they try to make you believe. Your way of spending Christmas may be a bit different and unusual, but it isn’t necessarily a bad way.

Christmas atmosphere
I think it’s very much doable to experience some great Christmas atmosphere in game. Just put on the pink glasses I talked about a while ago. Try to treat the players you meet a little bit better than you normally do. Give a stranger an unexpected hand. If you see someone who seems a bit clueless, help them out!

The Christmas in Azeroth (Well, “Feast of Winter Veil” as they call it for some obscure reason, I guess in order to stick to a non-confessional policy) isn’t created only by NPCs. It isn’t only about completing certain quests and getting achievements. The Christmas is created by people like you and me. It’s about how we treat each other and look on the world. Help to turn this Christmas into one worth remembering, especially for all those whose closest family is the virtual one.

Last, but not least I’d like to wish all the guests of The Pink Pigtail Inn a Merry Christmas! Thank you for all of your support and all the fun times we’ve had this year. I don’t know if I’ll be posting quite as regularly the next few days. But be sure that you’re in my thoughts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Open letter to an absent mage

It’s been over a month since Gnomeaggedon almost vanished from the Blogosphere, going for his epic journey to gain the Explore India Achievement. He’s still present by his Googled-posts, popping up every now and then, looking a bit like that stand-in angel that comes whenever a priest dies. It helps a little, but it really isn’t the same.

However we got a sign of life from him a while ago. I had commented on one of the Googled-posts, and to my surprise, Gnome himself answered! It was just a few lines, but they made me think. This is what he wrote:

So how is the whole FrostFire spec going?How are people enjoying their Mages at 80?

And I couldn’t help feeling a bit bad reading this. I’m supposed to run a mage blog, right? I write about other stuff too – but at least I imagine it’s from the point of view from a mage. Still I’ve obviously failed to describe what’s it like to play a mage these days. It’s about time I do it. So this is for you Gnome – a letter from one mage to another. Here we go:

Dear Gnome!

You were wondering about how we’re enjoying our mages at 80, maybe because you’re subconsciously pondering about what to do at your return. Is levelling your mage to 80 what your heart really desire? Maybe you hear the tempting whisperings from the Deathknights. You’ll never ever get a better opportunity to roll something else than now, balancing on the line between the old and the new content

Well, no need to worry any further, dear Gnome! Knowing the desire of your heart – making huge damage, hurling big balls of fire – I can tell you that you’ll get more than pleased with how mages have developed.

I haven’t run Recount lately, due to lag, but my general feeling is that we’ve finally been given some love and attention from Blizzard. We’ve been improved, but not to the extent that it has pissed off everyone else and resulted in a backlash nerf, which happened to ret paladins and hunters.

I know it’s silly and immature, but I’m kind of fascinated by big numbers. You see them a lot nowadays. Frostfirebolts are often critting for 8-9 k damage – sometimes a lot more – I saw one at 16 k the other day. And with two of those in a row, followed by a hot streak and a pyro for 6-7 k damage it adds up. Then I haven’t mentioned the little helpers you have whenever mirror image is up, or the living bomb, a nice dot which actually hurts a lot more than it looks. The enemies are literally melting in front of your eyes.

And the best thing of all: in spite of all this damage, threat hasn’t become a bigger issue – rather the contrary. I think tanks do better aggro these days – actually I’m working on changing my playstyle, trying to become a little bit more aggressive. I’ve been taught to wait for a few seconds, preferably a few sunders, before starting to cast my first nuke. Now I should rather cast it as soon as the tank starts the pull.

Since we haven’t started 25 man raiding yet in my guild I haven’t seen any recent WWS charts. I have a friend mage who has though, and his reports have been quite promising, doing 4 k dps on average during a normal raid night, ending up second on the damage list.

After the last patch in TBC mages had very hard to compete at all, doing damage on par with a tank – or less. Geared and talented at level 80 my impression is that we shouldn’t complain too much. Maybe the days when mages were known for their constant whining in public forums are over.

Other news
This was the nuke part. Nuking is important – it’s the essence of being a mage. But I’ll give you a few of the other news for mages at lvl 80

  • You don’t necessarily have to be a tailor anymore. The gear you can craft isn’t overwhelmingly good and anyway it isn’t restricted to tailors – you can pick another profession if you want and have another tailor make them for you.
  • Your bills for bringing potions to a raid will be smaller, since they’re restricted to one per fight. I had fears that mana would be a big issue because of this, but so far I haven’t seen experienced any lack of mana. It remains to see if this will be the same when the fights will get harder and longer.
  • I don’t know if it’s my imagination but I don’t see many warlocks around anymore. Are they all sulking and rolling Deathknights? I don’t know, but they’re gone.
  • Competition for gear will be a bit harder. You’ll find yourself rolling on a spellpower ring, not only against other dps casters, but also against healers. On the other hand there’s a lot of good gear around – through reputation grinds, badge collecting or crafting, so you can’t really say that gearing up is hard. One and a half month after the expansion was released I’ve got only 4 out of 17 slots that aren’t epic. And I still count myself as a pretty casual player with a limited time for gaming.
  • The cost for making tables has gone insane. Five powders for one table! I haven’t been to any BG since the release, but I suspect that you rarely see tables there nowadays.
  • Blastwave has changed, making it behave like… a real blastwave(!). It sure looks fun, knocking away the mobs, but it’s useless in an instance, too hard to control. I imagine though that it can be great fun in PvP.

Class balance
Are their any things to worry about? Well maybe that would be the class balance. Being a mage you don’t bring anything else to a raid but dps. We used to bring our int buff and awesome cc as well, but other classes can provide the same thing now. We’re not indispensable. The dual spec upcoming means that hybrid classes will be more attractive, being able to provide extra healing for one boss and dps for another one. A mage is a mage is a mage. We definitely won’t be given any spots in the raid by default.

Another problem is the constant lack of healers. The addition of the DK class has made a few more tanks available (though I must admit that I have yet to see a good DK tank, the ones I’ve met so far in pugs really haven’t been top class if so to say). But that makes the lack of healers even more urgent. There have been nights when I’ve spent hours in the LFG channel, and all you hear there are the desperate cries from the surplus dps. “DPS lfg heroics”, followed by “Good DPS lfg…” And then another one: LFM healer, last spot, gtg. The only thing we can hope for is that Blizzard makes a new hero healing class pretty soon or finds another way to make healing more fun and attractive.

The best of times
But enough of worries now. The new capital is even a dedicated mage town with mage NPCs in every corner. We’re the only class with a trainer of our own in Dalaran. And you can even join and honor The Mage Society itself, Kirin Tor, by wearing the tabard. We’re certainly living in the best of times for mages

Welcome back to Azeroth, to the brand new mage friendly world of Northrend! And welcome back as an active blogger!. We’re all looking forward to your return.

Best of regards

Your fellow mage and blogging colleague


Monday, December 22, 2008

Free your mind with re-customization

My guild has gone through a major transformation. A boob surgery if you so say. Suddenly we’ve got at least four new ladies in our guild – and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few more incoming, this seems to be the fashion of the day.

The reason is of course the new Re-Customization feature, giving you the possibility to change sex, name and appearance of your character for a fee of $15.

All of those name changes have been a bit confusing – it isn’t easy to know if those unknown names suddenly appearing on the guild roosters are newly recruited or veterans in disguises. So I asked for some clarifications and explanations in the guild forum and also wondered about the reasons for the changes.

This was the answer I got from one of our tanks, a warrior (played by a guy):

“I got a gender change because over the time I’ve played as a male nelf I’ve come to regret rolling a male. Their animations are really awkward and downright ugly, not to mention the fact that my guy had a really weird looking face that I couldn’t only cover up with a beard and a mad hairstyle”.

A female player decided to change her male priest into a girl:

“The sexchange was good for me to create a char I enjoy the graphics of, have a better feeling with and best thing is that people are not calling me dude/ m8/him etc. anymore”

The most interesting explanation though came from our Deathknight (male player):

“Too much beer, too less brain, I changed gender and name. Don’t really know why, but after a day I want to change back, tired of all the whispers with: “Hey, can u take all ur gear off so I can see a nude” already, so just waiting on the cooldown to get off”.

Female or male
I wonder how many of those switches back and forward we’ll see. And I also wonder if we’ll really see the opposite, female toons growing beards? I haven’t heard about any so far. Do people generally think that male characters look worse than female?

Loronar at 35 yards out wrote a post about the gender surgeries last week, arguing that it’s unlikely that the use will be wide spread. We’ve been living without it for such a long time, so why should we jump on the train now when it comes? The price is a bit high considering that it’s just for vanity purposes, according to Loronar.

Well, looking at the statistics of my guild I’d say the opposite. About 10 percent of the players changed sex as soon as it was available, which is quite a lot.

A good thing
So what do I think about the whole phenomena? Well, there are some disadvantages of course. The whole thing that you can so easily change name and appearance can make it easier to ninjas and other people you want to keep on your ignore list to sneak into your game play again. However they’ll probably reveal their inner nature soon enough, and changing over and over again will get pretty expensive, so probably it isn’t much to worry about.

Even though it hasn’t occurred to me to change my name, gender or even my hair cut (I’m proud to say that I haven’t got the hair cut achievement and I have no intention whatsoever to get it), I approve of others doing it. I think it may even be for good.

When you think about it there’s no reason that those things should be fixed and static in the game. It’s a magic world after all. It’s a place where you can find weird things as chrystallized fire, a world where you can teleport to other places and turn enemies into sheep. Why shouldn’t you be able to try another sex for a while out of curiosity? Will you be treated differently then you were before? You’ll never know until you’ve tried.

And where does it say that you have to make your character good looking? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the games through the eyes of a truly ugly character?

All in all I think the new deal is a great opportunity for us to free our minds and get away from the preset ideas about femininity, masculinity and beaut. We can try out new roles and we can switch back and forward if we want to.

Tanith Lee
I came to think about one of my favourite SF books, Biting the sun by Tanith Lee. She writes about a world where people commit suicide over and over again, are brought back to life and then can swip sex and looks if they want to. I can’t refrain from quoting the opening scene, hoping it will make you curious enough to read the whole book:

“Of course, when I woke up in the Limbo Tub I’d changed my mind. Some quasi-robot medicine man was peering in at me.

“Look here, young woman – I see that is what you pre-dominantly are – this has got to be stopped. This is the second time you’ve been back here in ten units”.

“Mmm,”, I swam around a bit and smiled at him with my emotional response wires.
The Q-R went away, and someone came and asked me what I wanted to come out as, and by then, you see, I’d anti-Hergaled myself. How drumdik it would be if people actually thought I was Hergll! What with that, and that floppy bee swooning in my hair… I showed them the new me. As usual it was depressingly lithe and glamorous. Hatta, and lots of other people I know, nearly always makes a point of having a fat body once in a while, or spots or something. Anyhow, this me was willow-waisted, with an exotic bust and long, long scarlet hair. I got into it, and it felt so odd I had to go somewhere quiet and have an ecstasy pill, and forget about it for a while.”

To be honest, the teenagers Tanith Lee writes about are pretty unhappy, in spite of the possibility to re-customize. Still I think there’s something beautiful about the idea. The body is rather a shell, containing a beautiful mind or an awesome player.

It’s a good thing that Blizzard brought this into Azeroth. I only wish there were a few more appearances to choose between, in my opinon the possiblities still are rather limited.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A love song to all commenters

The blogger One among many has initiated what has turned into a sort of love song to all commenters in the blogosphere. She has tagged a few bloggers – including me – and asked them to recall and link to the first person ever to comment on our blogs and give them our proper thanks.

Who could resist such a request? Of course I want to thank – not only the first one who commented, but every single one if it was possible. The comments are just as essential to building this inn as the post themselves. I think it’s like comparing a solo instrument to a whole orchestra. I don’t mind a single flute, but it will sound pretty lonely after a while. Without the ideas bouncing around in the comments the atmosphere really wouldn’t be the same. I mean it when I say it: we build this blog together.

The first comment
This said I should of course do as she requests and thank the first commenter properly. The first comment I ever got was on my second post written, To level quickly or with pleasure? I wrote it on February 3 and got a comment the day after, from Consentire, who at that time ran a Swedish WoW blog which had inspired me to start blogging. A couple of guildies commented as well – and to be honest I don’t think many people except for those read my blog for the first months.

In April I took the decision start the process of converting the whole blog into English. I got several comments on the post where I announced it. The quickest one to reply was Joshua, who runs WarcraftBloggers, which aggregates feeds from hundreds of WoW blogs. He informed me that he just had added me, which of course made me proud and excited.

Two established bloggers were quick to comment as well. The first one came from Softi at A little WoW for me:

oh great! I'm glad you've decided to make this change. Your english has so far been really easy to read so you can't be that bad at it! :P

The second one came from Aurik at /hug. He was – and still is – one of my favourite bloggers and I had commented on his blogs a couple of times. For instance I had given him a list where I had translated the headlines of a number of my Swedish Blog entries, trying to give him a picture of what my blog was about. Now he wrote me this:

Finally I can comment enthusiastically on your posts for a change! I'm glad you decided to go through with it and just sad that I didn't know Swedish in the first place to read it. Don't worry too much about your English - it's totally understandable and far more gramatically correct than mine will ever be.

I really hope you get more visitors by blogging in English - even when you write for yourself it's nice to know that others out there are reading and appreciating something which you have enjoyed writing. I hope, too, that you don't find it a chore to translate so much and lose the joy of the writing itself.
*Comes back from reading all of the currently translated posts*
Awesome work, keep it up!

What it meant
I don’t know if I ever thanked you properly, Joshua, Softi and Aurik. But here it is: a thanks coming from the bottom of my burning little gnomish heart. You know what comments to an insecure newbie blogger means. This really helped me to get the confidence I needed to go on with my mission to go for an English blog.

I try once in a while to pay this forward, to comment not only on established blogs but on new ones. I think a blogger is born twice – the first time starting the blog – the second time getting the first comment from a stranger. We all should help out to give birth to the new bloggers. Whenever I see an excellent blog post with 0 comments, my heart aches a little. I don’t comment as much as I would like to – there are too many blogs out there, so the task is a bit overwhelming. But I try to make footprints here and there, remembering my own first days as a blogger.

A linking memory
Finally I have to give another shoutout, to Matticus. One month after I had turned English his eyes happened to fall on a short little blogpost of mine about such an obscure topic as onion chopping. He linked to it and called it “interesting” or something like that. Somehow I can still feel that gentle kind pat on the shoulder, it keeps me going.

Commenters and linkers out there. This is my love song to all of you. Feel the warmth!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

The joy of being an ugly dwarf

I’ve turned into an ugly iron dwarf. And it was about time. God, I could never imagine I would love it so much!

You know, I’ve always put a pride into my cuteness. It never occurred to me to roll a horde char since they were per definition ugly. And I never thought about rolling a male character. I don’t know why really; I never was the kind of girl that plays with dolls – rather the opposite. I never use make-up in real life – to be honest I look quite shabby to be a girl of my age. So why sticking so hard to this cute little gnome girl with pink pigtails with her rather feminine appearance? The only explanation I can see is that it was some kind of reaction, an outlet for the girlish tendencies I’ve never showed in real life.

But all of this is history. Because now I’ve found another creature inside myself, and to my astonishment it turned out to be a male iron dwarf!

I never would have come to try it if wasn’t for the hype about the Iron Boot Flask, which turns you into an Iron Dwarf for ten minutes every hour (if you want). Currently the cost is 10 Relics of Ulduar, but in next patch it will increase to 250. “Go get it, before it’s too late”, WoWinsider told me.

And off I went to get my flask. “What’s the use?” a guildie asked. “Can it help you in anyway? Is it an exploit? Do you need that disguise to make a quest?” To be honest I had no idea. This time I was a mindless sheep, doing what everyone else was doing. Surely there must be a reason why the flask was going to become so expensive?

Wearing a disguise isn’t exactly a new thing in the game. I’ve had quite a few levelling up in WotlK – golem, wolf and the unforgettable murloc for instance. But being able to shapeshift over and over again once an hour as much as I like still is a bit different. Now the time had come to try it out, doing my daily quests for Sons of Hodir. I stood there on the ice, I clicked the item in my bag. And my eyes started to sparkle.

The result was about as unlike Larisa as you can get. But once I started to nuke I realized that all my spells still were there, now in the hands of this ugly little dwarf. To be honest it looked a bit stupid. I don’t think spellcasting really is a suitable occupation for a dwarf. With their rough appearance they’re adapted to close combat. But so what? When I had finished the mob and celebrated with an insane dwarf dance I couldn’t stop giggling to myself. It was only when I decided to take off on my mount that I became a bit disappointed, discovering that the new shape won’t survive mounting.

So how will the continuation be? Will Larisa from now on spend 10 minutes every hour as a dwarf? I don’t know. I guess the pleasure of novelty will wear off after a while. And when I think about it wearing different masquerade suits is rather unpractical, especially in raids. As long as people look as I’m used to I can easily keep track of who’s who and interact with them accordingly. When people are messing around with Halloween wands or Noggenfogger elixirs I have to think twice and look on the nametags or the minimap, which is an unnecessary complication.

But every once in a while, especially when I’m doing my Son of Hodir daily quest grinding, perhaps feeling a little bored, since it seems like such an endless task, I’ll brighten up my day turning into an iron dwarf.

And with the new insight I got I’ve suddenly got a new understanding for female players rolling ugly horde character. It isn’t as foreign and strange as I imagined. I could very well do it myself one day if I wasn’t already so attached to Larísa.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Does game over exist?

Once again my source of inspiration for a post is Gevlon. We tend to disagree most of the time and that’s very stimulating for my thinking abilities.

This time my rants takes off from a post were he was claiming that he’d rather clean public toilets than repeating content by clearing instances he’s already cleared grinding for reputation.

I replied that I felt the same thing about spending hours at AH – which hasn’t got any of the entertaining qualities I expect from a game. But I on the other hand I don’t mind doing heroic instances several times. I do it in order to optimize my gear, which is one of the driving forces in the game. (How sweet isn’t the exalted ring of Argent Crusade?) But above all I’m having fun doing it, because instances are never the same, depending on the group and your own level of gear and skill. And with the achievements as a new spice, you can always push yourself a bit further, getting new challenges to overcome, making the instance runs more fun.

Gevlon's answer to that took me a bit by surprise:

Of course you can go to instances many times for your amusement, but considering the storyline, it's not needed. The story of the game is to defeat Arthas and his minions to protect Azeroth. If you defeat HC Malygos, you completed the game for this patch.
Actually I’ve never thought about the game this way. Ever. To me WoW isn’t a something with a beginning and an end. It isn’t like playing flipper, where you’re supposed to get passed a lot of obstacles and then you reach the end and then it’s over and you go do something else.

But even if it was, what is there that says that defeating Arthas is the end of the game? Couldn’t it as well be to level a toon of each class to maximum level? Or to collect every single non combat pet there is? It’s all personal, what we see as our ultimate goal.

If you ask me I don’t see any end at all. OK, there is some guy called Arthas and I guess it will be kind of hard to beat him at some time in the future. But even if I will it doesn’t mean I’m done with WoW. When I play WoW I’m entering another world, another existence. I’m taking the portal to a dimension where I have other friends, where I’m allowed to show and express other sides of myself than I do normally. Playing WoW is a way of life. And it’s an escape, of course. There’s no final goal in it that will make me leave the game once I’m there. I guess that’s part of the explanation to why it’s so addictive.

Honestly, how many of the bulk of casual players do you think are aware about the existence of Arthas and the meaning of killing him? Not many. They keep questing or PvPing or roleplaying or crafting, whatever gives them pleasure, without thinking much about the end of the world, only enjoying their gaming experience in the present. I dare to say that to the majority of the players there is no game over and they’ve got only vague ideas about a storyline – if any at all. And there’s nothing bad about that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A further look into the den of the hardcore players

I the beginning of November I published a post where I briefly gave you an idea about the content of an interview with Kungen and Marilyn of Nihilum, published in a Swedish magazine. This interview was announced to be continued in the next issue and by a post commenter I was requested to report about that one as well. So here I am, once again, translating and referring, while adding a few thoughts of my own.

Bad timing
First of all I must feel a bit sorry for the magazine about the bad timing. The last issue hadn’t been out in the shops for more than a few days before Nihilum announced the merge with SK Gaming and the birth of the new guild Ensidia. In this second interview this change is acknowledged, but it’s apparent that the editor has thrown in a few lines about it in the last minute – the interview was probably made during the Nihilum era.

But that’s not the end of the changes. One of the guys interviewed, Marilyn, isn’t a member of Nihilum/Ensidia anymore. According to himself he was booted for starting a blog/website of his own, something that for some reason didn’t work with the agreement within the guild.
You can read his side of the story on his own blog: Marilyn. Yes, Marilyn has joined the forces of WoW bloggers, and I’ve found the few entrances I’ve read quite interesting; he’ll probably end up on my blogroll. (By the way the blog is in English, if anyone’s wondering.)

Are they happy?
Now over to the article. What’s in it that caught my attention this time? Well actually I didn’t only feel admiration for those guys – which I still do – but I also felt something else - pity. There were things shining through in this article which made me wonder if they’re always really happy about what they’re doing. A few quotes indicated that there are times when they feel sort of caught. They’ve chosen a way to play the game which is extremely demanding and now there’s no return. To be competitive raiding every night for many hours isn’t enough. You have to raid all day too.

When Nihilum were fighting for the first kills in Black temple, all the top guilds started their raids at 5 or 6 pm, and when Nihilum pushed it and started at 2pm, others considered them insane. But in Sunwell SK Gaming started raids at 7 or 8 am and kept raiding until 5 am next morning.
- They raided 20 hours a day, which meant that they put a new standard of raiding times.

Nihilum couldn’t get enough players being able to raid that much and they lost the first kills of M’uru and Kil’Jaeden. In WotLK this won’t be a problem, Kungen says. If they need to start at 8 am, they will be able to do so. But it’s not a development that he or Marilyn likes. It’s just the way things are now.

- You don’t feel well sitting in front of a computer, focusing hard over such a long time. I felt bad through the whole of Sunwell. It was a pain, Kungen says, suggesting that they should open the instances at a certain hour, so that all the top guilds could start at the same time.

- Then you would be able to see which guild was the best one in playing. Not only which had the players who played most time.

Kungen admits that he can feel the effects of getting older. If he sits in front of the computer fifteen hours a day he’ll get a headache. A few years ago he wouldn’t feel a thing.

They also seem a bit surprisingly uninterested in the game – or rather any other perspectives the game offers except for the fight for first raid kills. Everything else has lost its luster. “If we aren’t raiding I’m not logged in for any more than a few minutes. I’ll rather play DotA”, as Kungen says.

Frustration at Eredar Twins
They talk a lot about the frustration they feel when players aren’t performing the way they expect. The Eredar Twins fight is pointed out as extremely frustrating, when people failed at the same thing over and over again. “Every one has given all they had in four minutes, focusing, taking pots and giving pep talk to each other. And then the last guy seems to be asleep when he gets Conflag. Then you really get pissed off”, Marilyn says.

At this point they had several other guilds close to them – every try counted and could be the one that made it. It took them seven to eight tries going down to 10 to 30 percent before they made it.

It was after Eredar Twins that Nihilum had some problems. They lost some players – or kicked them. Some players didn’t turn up in raids and had to be replaced in last minute. The concept of unlocking bosses, which forced them to wait for weeks before proceeding, was one of the reasons that players lost interest and motivation. And in the end Nihilum lost the final first kills.

At the same time they seem to think that it’s natural that this would happen sooner or later. After being on top for two and a half year you aren’t as motivated as the ones that are coming from “below”.

Easier for the casuals
There has been a lot of writing recently about how Ensidia is blaming Blizzard for making the game too easy. It shouldn’t be possible to beat the new instances as quick as they have, according to their press release. In the interview, however, they give a more nuanced opinion about it.

- You can be critical, but at the same time you have to understand the motivation of Blizzard. They reach an audience that no other game has ever done before, in width and numbers. In the end everything is about money and if they get 20 million of players to play Wrath of the Lich King, well, then they have succeeded. And if there are two elite guilds sitting whining about “welfare epics” – big deal, says Marilyn.

And Kungen adds:
- You have to realize they haven’t tried to make it easier for the top guilds, they have made it easier for the common players who play a few hours a day. They can have their epics now and – sooner or later – get access to the whole game. So I don’t mind that development.

What he does mind though is that legendary gear drops are random. Before Nihilum got their first set of War Glaives they had killed Kil’Jaeden, while other guilds had up to five sets, which gave them an incredible boost. In order to kill M’uru they had to recruite new rogues with War Glaives. Then they could take him down easily after wiping for two weeks.

In stead of this randomness you cold do it other ways, Kungen says, mentioning Naxxramas, where you could make a legendary staff, putting 40 splinters together.

Talking about Naxxramas, they think this is the best instance Blizzard has ever done, considering the wide range of bosses, the diversity in it.

- Just think about Heigan, Marily says enthusiastically. I don’t get how they thought designing him, but it really was a success. The only thing you have to do is running around, surviving the crap coming up from the ground. I’m sure you can five-man that boss today, it was only about surviving the monster. But at that time everyone died at that boss. I think we had ten alive every time we killed him.

- Or take Loatheb where you only could heal once before you got a debuff making preventing it from doing it for a few minutes. Such unique events they haven’t managed to make somewhere else. And then there were fights like Patchwork, with only tank and spank, which really is fun for a change.

They loose themselves into nostalgic memories from all the hours they spent on Four Horseman, which was “disgustingly difficult”. But the worst thing was the timing. They released Naxxramas at the same time as the World Championship in football, and since the whole guild were football fans they were far behind everyone else from the beginning, cancelling a lot of raids. But finally they managed to catch up.

The new Naxxramas version isn’t anything these guys care much about or focus on, it’s something to “run through once”, which they already have by now.

Grateful being Larísa
Well, that’s the end of it. If you understand Swedish you could read the whole interview in World of Warcraft, issue 5/2008.

My thoughts? Most of all I feel sorry for them. I don’t know what it is, but I find the tone in the interview a bit saddening - especially in the light of the later events, ending up in a guildless Marilyn.

I can’t help feeling grateful for being Larísa of Adrenaline and NOT Kungen of Ensidia.

I’m casual enough to enjoy all the aspects of the game, from running around clueless in Winterspring to patting my latest and cutest non combat pet. And I’m serious enough to have the prospect of seeing most of the raiding content and get the challenges and boss kill kicks I need, although it will take me a bit longer than it did for Ensidia.

It really couldn’t be any better. The den of the hardcore players isn’t for me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fashion for clothies doesn’t make sense

In the latest issue of Twisted Nether Fim and Bre asked bloggers to come up with some posts about the new Northrend fashion. What do we think about the latest trends of dressing?

Well to be honest I’ve never cared a lot about my looks. I know a lot of male players who definitely pay a lot more attention to their style of clothing than I do (and I so disagree with Bre, who suggested that fashion is something that mainly interests girls).

Actually I had played at level 70 for quite a while before I heard that the gear you got in Outlands didn’t match and that our toons looked like clowns. I hadn’t noticed; to me the cloths were just something carrying the stats I was looking for.

But little by little I’ve developed at least an embryo of a taste for gear fashion. (In real life I don’t have any taste at all so I mostly stick to dressing in black, boring but “safe” and fitting for my personality.)

Now, after almost two years of playing, I feel that I’ve finally have got a feeling for what I like and what I don’t like in the game. The time has come: Today I’m going to share some of my thoughts about the fashion for clothies. And I’m not going to look at the world through pink lenses. I’m in the mood for complaining!

Shoulder complaint
First of all I’ll complain about the shoulders. Where did the designer get the idea that shoulders have to be huge? I know there was some trend – could it have been in the 80s? – when women were supposed to have the shoulders of their jacked sort of stuffed – the bigger, the better. Most women looked like triangles turned upside down those days. Impressive – maybe. But beautiful? No. I don’t mind women with broad shoulders, but it should be made by real muscles, not by filling your shoulder pads with some silly cotton stuffing.

All shoulders in the game don’t look like that. The T5 shoulders, which I used for a long time, were slender, and glowed nicely in red. Just beautiful. At least if you compare them to the T7 shoulders which I’ve got now. They’re huge, ridiculously oversized for a little gnome lady.

By the way, what’s the thing with all those spikes? It doesn’t make sense to design cloth gear that way. Spellcasters aren’t supposed to get into close combat. We’re attacking by magic spells and we’re using magic shields and other tricks to protect ourselves. To me it makes sense that tanks and melee classes are wearing heavy armor, in strong materials as plate, mail and leather, and with spikes and other stuff that can hurt the enemies and keep them away (hedgehog strategy). But to a caster it’s pointless. We ARE glass cannons and we should look like it too.

Head complaint
My next complaint goes to the head issue. You rarely see female clothies displaying their helms, and that’s no wonder. How could we? Most of them make us look like children, trying silly hats that they’ve found in their grandmothers or grandfathers wardrobe. You can’t take them seriously. Who would like to walk around in a sombrero unless heavily drunk? Give me a break!

The only head I’ve ever displayed was my Mana-Etched Crown. That was a beauty, worthy a mage.

My current helm, Cowl of the Vindicitive Captain, must be the worst one I’ve ever had. What kind of a joke is this? Why would a pink pigtailed, good hearted and innocent little gnome mage walk around as someone with odd taste and dirty secrets (you know what I’m talking about)? I’m just asking.

I think other classes are much better off when it comes to heads. I display the head of my rogue gnome girl without being ashamed. She’s often got masks over her face, which go well with the kind of class she’s representing and make her look cool. But Larísa seems to be doomed to wear invisible heads forever.

Tabard Complaint
In the end of TBC I chose not to wear any tabard or shirt. The reason was the beautiful Scarlet Sin’dorei Robes, which showed some of your stomach There’s no way a gnome girl can look “hot” as a blood elf or night elf, but at least we can look modern and fashionable, and without a tabard Larísa really did.

With the new reputation grinding mechanics I’ve got no choice but to wear a tabard, no matter what. And fashion or not, I pick the tabard from the rewards and not from the looks of it. I’ve just got rid of the Tabard of the Wyrmrest Accord after hitting exalted. I guarantee you I’ll NEVER wear it again. When I look at the picture of a human wearing it at Wowhead I realize that the yellow thing on the chest is supposed to picture a tower. Well on a short gnome you won’t see that. It’s just ugly. However my current tabard, the one of the Argent Crusade, is only a little better. It’s got some skin coloured circle in the middle which makes it look as if I’ve cut a hole in my chest. Not my picture of good fashion.

If I was supposed to wear a tabard, but could choose which one freely, I think it would be the Tabard of the Argent Dawn. Unfortunately I don’t have it on Larísa, but my rogue Arisal has it, and will keep wearing it until she too reaches the level where she’s forced into the rep-based tabard wearing.

Now the tabard demand is only in instances, but knowing myself I don’t dare to take it off between doing instances, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t remember to put it on again. So I just have to wear this pain until I hit exalted and they the tabards will be off for ever.

So we’ve come to the end of this Northrend fashion column. There’s been a lot of complaining, but mind you, the complaints are about how things look at female gnome mages. All in all I think the Northrend fashion is pretty nice, with many dark colours, which fit the instances very well. Not so much of the sf’style of TBC. But is it only me that thinks that everything sorts of looks the same? No clowns around, but not much sticking out either. A little bit more of variation wouldn’t hurt.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I see gnomes everywhere!

Gn++, to use the new Geeky Code System, created by Typhoon Andrew.

Yes, I love gnomes, which the regular readers of The Pink Pigtail in should know by now.
And the more of them, the merrier!

I don’t know what it is that makes them so lovable. Probably it’s got something to do with the size. It’s so unlikely that such a small little creature can do so much damage. And still they do, like a David facing a Goliat.

Gnome warriors aren’t that popular for some reason, but have you ever seen one in action you won’t forget it. You can’t say anything but that they look brave when they charge in, attacking a dragon, who’s got claws that are bigger than the gnome himself.

I’ve always wanted to see a gnomes-only dungeon party. I guess it should be doable at some low level instance, but at the right level it seems sort of futile even to try it. How far can you come on pots (one per fight nowadays), bandages and jumper cables? Not that far, I’m afraid.

However, even if we have yet to see a healing gnome class, the expansion has given me some other cookies to enjoy. I’ve never seen as many pink pigtailed gnomes as I do these days, thanks to the new lovely mirror spell they’ve blessed the mages with.

Maybe it’s just the pleasure of getting a new spell, a feeling that will wear of eventually, but right now I enjoy immensely to see three copies of myself engaging into the fight for a little while, until they succumb making a sad little noise. I must admit that they don’t always attack the targets I would recommend in the first place – they behave rather randomly and disoriented, to be honest. But still you can’t but love them.

To make it even better I tried combining them with my trinket gnomes and suddenly there were no less then seven gnomes in one spot, attacking the same target. Larísa was turned into the commander of a gnomish army! It’s a bit chaotic I must admit – since I haven’t got any pet par, they seem to attack stuff a bit randomly. But still. It’s an army! I only wish they could upgrade the trinket so it was worth carrying for real, not just for screenshots.

And as if this wasn’t enough, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see more copies of Larísa in the game, without using the mirror. Sometimes I’ve fought her, killing my inner demons or whatever, in instances and quests. At other points we’ve been friends, when I helped my future “me”, fighting side by side. I like it either way – as long as I get to see more pink pigtailed gnomes I’m fine. It’s gnome therapy: help the good sides of yourself and kill the bad sides, while enjoying our cute appearances.

There are gnomes everywhere. I’ve got the feeling that the gnomish power in Azeroth is about to be restored in a near future. We’re certainly living in the best of times!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Annoyed? It’s your choice!

I don’t know if I see an emerging trend, but lately I’ve read quite a few ranting posts on WoW blogs, where people are complaining about other players. They get annoyed by their lack of skill, lack of knowledge, lack of manners or lack of imagination when picking a name for their toon.

The grumbling rant is a classic genre for WoW blogging and I can understand why. The recognition factor is high, you let the readers not and feel that they’re sort of members of a club of superior players. The blogger and his or her readers are all supposed to be players who DO have skill, knowledge, manners and good taste (or at least we can talk ourselves into believing that we have it.)

Somehow the posts seem to target those “bad players”, trying to convince them to change their behaviour. But honestly, do you think that ANYONE of those you’re complaining about will recognize themselves and get a new insight from it: “Oh, I really should change the way I play after reading the wise words by this guy”? I doubt it.

I guess the purpose of those posts (I’ve surely written some in this genre myself, so I’m not innocent) probably most of all is to let out some steam and to share the frustrations with other people, which somehow makes us feel a bit better. Sometimes they’re a bit whining. Sometimes they’re entertaining and well written and worth a reading.

Choosing a filter
Still all those rants leave me a bit wondering. Is the game really that bad to you? What glasses do you wear when you play it? Is it necessary to make yourself so unhappy? Because I think that’s something we do from time to time. We don’t always choose what will happen to us. A hunter’s pet may get berserk and run away and cause a completely unnecessary wipe (which happened to me the other night in a pug). But we can choose our reaction to it, depending on what filter we see through.

It’s got to do with what keeps you hooked to the game of course. If you’re only in it for maximizing your character in gear, ranking and achievements and you don’t care much about what means it takes to get there - if other players are nothing else but slightly less predictable npc:s to you and if you always measure your enjoyment and happiness in efficiency, how much you gain per played hour - if you’ve a shiny, antiseptic, steel coloured filter – then I can understand that you get frustrated every time you log in.

But if you have other motives as well – overcoming difficulties, gaining trust and friendship, enjoying teamwork and seeing new, unexpected things – then you should perhaps try seeing the events through another filter – perhaps in a warm, pink colour.

First impressions
The player who messed up in an instance maybe isn’t as skilled as you. But it isn’t necessarily because he’s an egoistic, stupid, lazy or evil person. Perhaps he isn’t as talented as you are and is struggling to improve. Of course you don’t have any obligation whatsoever to help him out. Of course there’s nothing that tells that you should give him a few hints and a helping hands to step up a bit. But do you know something? If you try it you may get surprised. Sometimes the first impression leads us wrong. The guy you were so quickly to doom if wearing the titan blue filter could have turned out to become a dear friend in the long run, if you had only been wearing the other filter. Perhaps he couldn’t kite properly, but who knows, maybe he could have given you a fascinating lesson in WoW lore if you had looked a bit closer.

If you pug a lot it’s quite likely that you’ll sooner or later end up in a group with players who are less skilled, experienced or geared than you are. You could say that they’re not quite carrying their own weight. But will the experience become any more pleasant if you let yourself become annoyed about it, if you turn into anger and loath? I doubt it. It’s not that they make you feel miserable – YOU allow them to do it. Next time you find yourself in that position – try to see it from another point of view. OK, you have turned up with a tank who isn’t master of tanking or a healer who doesn’t heal… but so what? This will make the run a bit more challenging; you’ll have to be on your toes to make up for it. And that’s awesome! See it as an opportunity to train your own skills as well as your mental stability (something which is certainly needed if you’re intending to raid 25 man instances later on.)

Chat channels
Another example: I’ve read quite a few complaints about the general and trade chat channels. Some bloggers have even turned it off, out of annoyance. They seem to get annoyed that people are asking things they could easily look up at Wowwiki, Wowhead and other public websites. I put on my pink filter and say: so what? As long as it isn’t gold selling spam (which honestly annoys me too) I’m fine with the rather wild discussions that sometimes are going on in General. It makes the world feel inhabited at any hour. Those “silly” questions sometimes work as starters of interesting conversations. I’m not sure I’d be any happier if everyone looked up the information they needed on their own, remaining silent.

Azeroth isn’t perfect and it never will be – no matter what appearance we may have in the game, we’re all human beings behind it, all with strengths and weaknesses. But if you get constantly annoyed by the tiniest little things in the game – it’s your choice. You’re not a victim, even though you may think so.

To see the gold
I try to see the world through the pink glass. Sometimes I fail. But I try because I think it will keep me happier in the long run. If I manage to discover the hidden grains of gold in other players I think it will help me to find the gold within myself.
And to my fellow bloggers: keep ranting about things and people that annoy you if that's what you like to do. They're fun reads. But don't forget to write a rant now and then about players and features in the game that inspire you and make you smile! We need that stuff too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The soul of a guild

“You cannot create a functioning raiding guild”.

This statement comes from Gevlon at Greedy Goblin. In this post he explains the futility of trying to create a new raiding guild and why it’s wiser to join an existing one.

If I understand Gevlon right, the only reason to stay in a raiding guild is to progress in raids. But people will not carry exactly the same weight in raids and because of this the most skilled members are likely to leave the guild sooner or later to join a guild that’s doing better progress, according to him.

He also refuses to talk about the guild as an organism in its own. “Since it is not a body, it cannot act. You cannot touch or hit or talk to a guild”.

I guess it won’t come as a surprise to the regular PPI readers that I disagree about this. I seriously think that guilds will develop life of their own. At least the good ones will - the guilds which will last in the long run. Actually I think the existence of a guild soul is one of the great benefits, one of the reasons why we form guilds and don’t just pug out all the instances. There’s a saying that 1+1 isn’t necessarily always 2, sometimes it makes 3. And that’s what a guild is about.

A good guild will develop a culture of its own, a special atmosphere, which you can’t clearly credit to any specific person. It’s all over the place. It’s in the forums, it’s in the guild chat, it’s in the raid. The guild soul carries the heritage from earlier members, but also the visions for the future by the ones who’re in it now.

Describing this soul isn’t easy. You feel it, but how can you put words into it? Bre at Gun Lowing Dwarf Chick once suggested that you should picture your guild as a landscape. Is it dramatic with high rocks to climb, pretty harsh? Or is it a green bright meadow, full of colour?
Guilds with and without souls
Do ALL guilds have souls? Not necessarily. If the guild is just a platform for members to gear up – an agreement where you’re more or less a freelancing soldier, doing your job and getting your part of the share, but without connecting to the other members in anyway whatsoever, looking at them more or less as NPCs – well then it obviously hasn’t got any soul. Can a guild like that work? Yes, I guess it can. But I wouldn’t like to be a part of it.

The soul of my guild Adrenaline is invisible, but it does exist. It’s cold as ice and red as blood at the same time. And it’s got dramatic peaks as well as some nice grassy areas where you can rest and just enjoy watching the clouds and watching some really silly creatures playing around having fun. I wish you could feel it to. You just have to believe me when I tell you it’s beautiful.

Finally I’d like to go back to the initial statement, that you can’t create a functioning raiding guild. Maybe Gevlon's right about it in one way? You can create a guild, but to make it work in the long run the guild will need a soul. And that can’t be created artificially; you can’t force it to be born. It’s something that will just happen to you, and you can’t put your finger on when it happened or who made it. But one day it’s there, and you will see it – the soul of your guild.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The humiliation of a noob jumper

I was never any star when we had athletics at school. On the contrary. Whenever the teacher announced that we were going to the sport stadium to run, jump or throw things, I shrank. I knew that meant that I’d spend hours being humiliated. Getting hurt by the high jump bar falling down at the lowest of heights, to the amusement of others. Reaching the goal on the running track in twice the amount of time as anyone else. Throwing the ball such a short distance that it wasn’t worth taking measures. Not to speak of long jump, which in my case rather should be called short jump.

I came to think about this when I was humiliated again, doing my first Naxxramas 10 man raid last week. Our guild had already cleared two wings earlier during the week and now it was time for the Construct Quarter. It turned out that there were a couple of greenish floods which you had to cross, preferably jumping, since they hurt a lot. One of them was doable, even for me. Not the first time, but since we had a couple of wipes on Grobbulus and Gluth, I got the opportunity to practice. The second flow though, was a mystery to me. Not one single time did I get over without being drained on mana as well as health. Is it doable to jump it without touching the water? I don’t know. Not to me as it seems.

Jumping platforms
But this wasn’t the Big Humiliation during this evening; the flood was only the appetizer. The horror which made me think about athletics at school was the last boss of the wing, Thaddius. Entering the second phase in the fight, you’re supposed to make a huge jump from one platform to another. Everyone else succeeded but me. And as if that wasn’t enough – I failed three times more. Everytime I jumped and fell into the water I had to make a quite long run to get to the jumpspot again. When the raid finally wiped on this first try on him, I still haven’t reached it! I felt absolutely useless.

Admitting this to a friend in the group he asked: “have you tried slow fall?” And that made me feel even sillier. Of course I should have thought about it myself. When it was time to make the huge jump I slowfalled my way over without any problem whatsoever. Sometimes it’s great to be a mage!

Still the whole incidence stayed in my mind, disturbing me. This wasn’t the first time I had been into trouble while jumping and I definitely want to improve my performance. There is no reason why I should be as bad at jumping in game as I am in real life. In real life I can blame my physical weaknesses, being pretty short by nature. In game I’m even shorter, but as far as I can tell a gnome should be able to jump as far as a long legged nightelf.

Training arena
So now I’m scratching my head, wondering what to do. I’d like to see a training ground in the game. The introduction of the dummies in IF, where you can try spellrotations and such, was brilliant. I want more though. What I’d like to see is a whole arena where I could practice for instance precision jumping without the risk to take damage and get high repair bills.

Of course it’s possible that would attract some spectators, eager for blood, willing to mock and belittle anyone who’s a bit different. But so what? Being a grown up I can deal with the fact that we all have different sorts of talents. I may not be a gifted long jumper, but that shouldn’t deter me from jumping at all. On the contrary I should jump more in order to improve. The only thing I ask for is to be spared the humiliation of practicing jumping in the raid. When going to raid I want to be on top, trained and prepared for heroic deeds, including jumping, if that’s what it takes.

Now I don’t seriously believe Blizzard will create a special arena for practicing different sorts of moves, just because Larísa is asking for it. Probably there are good places for this already, all over the game. Rivers which could be jumped over, cliffs you could jump between, what do I know. If you come to think of any place like this, please let me know!

I’d really like to keep my feet dry next time we’re doing Naxx.

Monday, December 8, 2008

My geeky WoW code

Do you want to know my WoW history? Do you want to know what I’ve achieved in the game and which aspects of it I like most? Would you like to hear about my gaming habits, what I think about other classes and which position I have in my guild?

That could be quite a lengthy post. But Typhoondrew has showed us how it could be done in a truly geeky and very efficient way. It can all be abbreviated into a few lines of letters, all meaning something.

So this is the WoW code of Larísa:

M: Ma80, Mb:0/53/18, Mr: Gn, Alt: Ro70, S: Stormrage-EU-Pve, G:Adrenaline R, Pvp-, Pve+, Y2007.2. DHC, TBC-BT, L, C:++Ma, R:Gn++, -Hu!, RP-, :-D, V0.1

Do you get it? If not, I’m not going to give you the code key here. Instead I recommend you to go and check the original post, where you get it all explained.

Thank you Typhoonandrew for sharing this! I’m the kind of person who likes crosswords and such, so I found some geeky pleasure in doing this, don't ask me why.

It remains to see if the code will be established into the WoW fan community. Who knows? At least I was amused enough to do it myself and spread the word to a few more.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time to dig for new jewels of WoW blogging

The activity on many WoW blogs recently has decreased, as Typhoonandrew noticed in a grumpy post the other day. Without scientific proof – I don’t keep records, I don’t even read the blogs through feeds, so there’s no counting there – I must agree. I always get a lot of inspiration and input to my own blogging from reading other blogs, but lately I’ve had the feeling that I haven’t been fed with tons of ideas the way I’m used to.

Prefer playing
There are several explanations for this. One, obviously, is that the expansion is too good. We all have a limited amount of time to spend on the game. Questing and killing in Azeroth is just a small part of it – we probably spend about as much time planning our playing on guild forums, following discussions about theorycrafting on other forums, looking up strategies for dungeons and raid instances, reading blogs and listening to podcasts. It’s no wonder it’s hard to get time to write our own stuff.

Another explanation is the time of the year, which is very busy for many people. Projects are supposed to be completed before New Year, exams are upcoming and there’s a bunch of holidays, which not only will demand our mental and physical presence with our families, but also take some planning and preparation.

All in all I think it isn’t a too wild guess that whatever time we’ll be able to spend on WoW, we rather use for actually playing the game, levelling and gearing our toons, than blogging about it.

The Blogosphere
Still all hope isn’t lost for the addicted WoW blog reader. The Blogosphere contains a lot more awesome blogs than you have a clue about. Let’s be honest – isn’t it easy to become a bit lazy when it comes to blog reading? We establish habits where we check out the “established blogs” and the blogs which happened to be around when we started blogging or blog reading a year ago. We read the blogs that EVERYONE else will read and link to.

Do we really give the new bloggers the chance they deserve? Almost every day a new blogger is introduced at the Blog Azeroth forums. Do you check them out? And if you do so, do you give them a second review when they’ve been around for a month, to see if they have developed their blog a bit further? Hands up, who hasn’t been there, writing their first confused “I don’t know why I blog but I’ll try it out” post? It will take any blogger a few weeks to see what shape their blog will take. Don’t judge the newbies too quickly!

And if Blog Azeroth doesn’t give you enough of new food for thought you could brows through the blog list at Twisted Nether Wiki. That’s SOME list, isn’t it?

To get established
I think it’s a bit sad to see how hard it seems to a new blogger to get established. There’s something in the media logic that leads us wrong. Really, the blogs with the highest number of readers aren’t necessarily the ones that are most read worthy. And yet they keep attracting new readers, thanks to their size. There’s something magnetic in it. People seem to think that “so many readers can’t be wrong”. They can.

If you look at my blogroll I follow a mix of blogs. Some are well established – but there are also a number of not-quite-as-often-mentioned-ones. I could go on and give a little rant about every single one, but I’ll just give you a few examples of blogs which I enjoy and that aren’t mentioned and linked to quite as often as they deserve:

Groups of Words. This blog contains… a lot of words. Interesting, well written posts about a range of topics. You will never find a “look at this silly screenshot” post here. It isn’t updated quite as often as I’d wish as a starving reader. But when he writes, he does it well. Don’t be scared off by the layout, which appears a bit broken in my reader (IE). Content is king in my world, and this blog has content.
Altoholic's Are us. Altoholicmom writes personal posts, written from the perspective of a player who's been around for a very long time and knows the game by heart. But she also provides very useful posts, such as the Wrathgate guide the other day or the Northrend Daily Quest. The name is a bit decieving. This blog is NOT about how fun it is to create 9 alts on 10 different servers and level them to 20. You don't have to be a fan of alts to be a fan of Altoholicmom. Tis is a general WoW blog, and a very good one. She's obviously got 4 (four) readers. That's ridiculous. They should be 400. At least.

Artisan Level. It’s a mystery to me why I’m about the only blog I’ve seen linking to her. This blog is awesome. For some reason it makes me think of Chick GM (the wonderful blogger who’s been silent now for a couple of months, maybe because of health reasons, I hope you’re OK if you’re reading this). Oriniwen is a guild leader and shares her experiences, her victories and defeats, her worries and ideas, with all of us. Obviously she hasn’t got quite the same authority as Chick GM and her guild isn’t a cutting-edge raiding guild (what I understand). But she writes about guild life from the leader aspect in an honest, personal manner and I guarantee she’ll give you food for thought.

Greedy Goblin. If you follow his blog you’ll never get out of reading. He posts every single day, sometimes even twice and I can’t understand how he managed to keep it up. What makes this blog so fun is that it mixes good hands-on-advice about how to make gold in WoW efficiently with philosophical rants about economical laws in the game as well as in real life. I don’t always agree with Gevlon. He’s pretty provocative in his goblin views (just look at the comment he made on this blog yesterday… oh dear!) He loves to call people “stupid”, something Larísa wouldn’t dream of doing. And that’s why it’s so good. I want to be annoyed and provoked from time to time, I want to get stuff to think, even if I’ll turn up in a completely different position.

This was just four examples of jewels to be found. There are plenty more out there. Don’t complain about the lack of posting from the established blogs. Go out and have a look I’m sure you’ll find a lot of new nodes on the blog map, which you’ve overlooked until now, following your ordinary reading pattern. It’s time to make new discoveries.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Farewell to privacy

First of all: I appreciate the social aspect of WoW as much as anyone else. I love to team up with and interact with other people and if I never did that I’d probably not play the game at all.

Now, this said, I also like WoW because you in spite of the socializing still can stay very anonymous. You’re not judged by other people by your looks, age or social status. If you want to stay private and keep some information to yourself you can do so. You share as much as you want to share and nothing more.

Armory changes
This is how it has been at least, until now. The recent “improvement” of the Armory feature has changed it. Not in the aspect that they’ll leave out information about your real life – that’s still a secret. But they’ve changed so that you’re character is open for inspection by anyone in the world.

I’m not only talking about your gear and talent spec. Those things have been available for others to see for a long time, and I think that makes sense. They provide information which is pretty necessary, for instance if you’re about to put together a team for some purpose, weather it’s an instance or Arena. You need to find people with the right combination of specs and gear.

No, the New Armory is something completely different. It will show the world everything available in your achievement window – not only achievements but also all kinds of statistics. Everything you’ve done in the game is available for judging and commenting – thing’s that you’re proud of as well as things that you’d rather forget.

How many times have you screwed up and died from falling damage? The Armory will tell. How much gold was the most you ever had? No secret anymore.

They don’t yet show what you have stored in your bank or carry in your bags and they haven’t yet displayed your friends list or ignore list. But thinking about how far it has gone already I wouldn’t be too surprised if that would appear too one day.

I can see benefits of the change. It’s a part of the achievement system, which many players appreciate. You can’t deny that the measuring of yourself against other players, the e-peen factor of the game, is something that many players enjoy. It’s fun to show off, to be able to manifest that you have done something that not everyone else has done.

People want to know more about other people. They’re curious. There is a reason why newspapers at least where I live love to publish lists over who’s got the highest incomes, the most exclusive houses or did best on the national tests for access to university studies.

It may also be beneficial for guild recruiting – with the achievements available it will be harder for anyone to lie about what previous experiences they have in the game.

Bullying and hacking
But this said, I must still say that I’m not entirely happy about the new thing. And it’s got to do with the less pleasant sides of socializing in the game. I don’t think I’ll suffer much from it myself, being old enough to laugh about my own crappiness. But I can vividly imagine that younger players will be able to find ways not only to gloat and show their e-peens, but to actually bully each other. I’m also afraid that the display of the financial status can give useful information and inspiration to hackers.

And I can’t help feeling that I’ve lost some of my privacy in the game. They’ve taken it pretty far already – is this where it will stop? Mind you, I’m not a very secret person – I’ve got a blog where I’m telling the world about my life in the game. But it’s always voluntary. I share because I want to share, not because someone forces it upon me.

A solution?
So with the pros and cons of displaying achievements – is there any solution to meet the demands of those who want to show them as well as those who want to keep their achievements to themselves?

Well, I don’t know if it’s technically doable, but in the best of worlds I think players should be able to decide for themselves to show it or hide it in Armory. Give the achievement nerds the tools they need to compete with each other. And give players who wish to work towards their own goals silently the possibility to stay in the shadows, private and unseen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Setting a course at 80

Some players make a huge effort in order to make the circumstances of their level cap dinging match the importance of the event. Their preferences vary – some want to ding mid-air, discovering a new zone – others want to turn in a certain quest or see to that they’re in an instance, surrounded by friends who can give praise and applauses. And of course those players make sure to capture the happening in a beautiful screenshot.

I’m not one of those players. When I dinged 80 the other night it was in the most unglamorous manner you could think of, killing an earth elemental in Storm Peaks. It dropped… whatever. It was as random as it could be. The reason was that I had been questing in this zone for a while. When I approached 80, all of my current quests seemed complicated. You know the kind of quests where you’re supposed to find npc:s hiding god knows where, use technical devices, clicking stuff or riding stuff but not killing stuff. That’s fun but not when you’re eager to ding. I wanted raw and simple xp like the one you get in Sholazar Basin. But I didn’t want to spend time switching zones just to find a kill-12-boar-quest in disguise. Instead I headed to the giants who give out daily quests to see if they had anything suitable for me. They did.

Immediately after dinging I went to grab my new spells. And then I activated my last inscription spot and put my last talent point before forgetting about it. But what should I do next?
Starting endgame at 80 is quite different to me to how it was to enter endgame at 70. At that point I had a very vague idea about what would await me beyond the cap. I had heard about Karazhan though, so I started the attunement chain since it seemed as a nice project. But I wasn’t in any hurry at all and my goals were still unclear.

Now I’ve got a deadline: right after Christmas we’ll start our 25 man raiding in Naxx. And by then I should be prepared – with better gear than my current (I’ve hardly had any upgrades at all in the expansion so far) – and with consumables and gold for repair available. The question is what road to pick to get there. I was standing in the middle of a crossroad, with a huge to-do-list.
  • I need reputation with a number of factions in order to buy upgrades.
  • I need to level my professions to support me with gear, elixirs and food.
  • I need gold, which I could get at a decent speed if I kept questing – I still haven’t touched Grizzly Hills, Zul’Drak, Crystalsong or Icecrown.
  • I need tons of Emblems of Heroism for badge gear.
  • I may need to PvP – at least it used to be a (not altogether accepted) way to gear up to a decent level quickly.
  • I even need to level my alt Arisal, since she’s the one who’s supposed to provide herbs to Larísas alchemy business.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland, looking at all those signs pointing in every direction, everyone claiming to be the way to go. Then I realized that maybe the choice wasn’t that crucial after all. Actually any of the available paths will lead to the destination – to become raid ready. It’s more about how to make the journey enjoyable – what aspect of the game do I like most? Any road goes. The only thing that doesn’t work well is getting paralyzed or randomly jumping between all of the roads, spreading out my efforts so much that I don’t progress on any of them.

The road of the heroics
As I was standing in the streets of Dalaran, still scratching my head, I noticed a new blue exclamation mark on the map. It led to the daily heroic dungeon quest. And then I knew I had set my course. I joined the LFG channel and a few minutes later I entered my first heroic instance in WotLK, ready to get the first emblem of many in my greedy little hands.

Doing as many heroics as possible will be my main occupation in the game from now on. If I’m lucky I’ll get drops – and I’ll always get badges and loads of frostweave cloth for gear and reputation with the faction of my choice.

Above all: I’ll be able to play in group, which is what I like to do, practicing my new spell rotations, experimenting on how to make the best use of novelties as Hot streak, Living bomb and Mirror image (which have made the life of a mage more fun, but also a lot more complicated).

I have set a course and I’ve got a huge smile on my face. It’s a new beginning.